On Wednesday night, Katy and I fought at the Grand Thai Boxing Stadium in Hua Hin.
I’ve fought in Hua Hin a couple of times at Cong Carter Muay Thai gym, but this was my first appearance at this stadium. Kru Singh seems to have a pretty good relationship with the promoter there, so it’s frequented by fighters from our gym, but up until now, my six-day-a-week work schedule had always stopped me from going. I’ve recently gone part-time with teaching to free up more time for training, fighting and writing, so now have the chance to take mid-week fights like this, which I’m really happy about. This fight has also been a long time coming. My last one was back in June, shortly before I went on my annual vacation back home. I was gone for a month and wasn’t able to train during that time, although I did the best I could by myself with lots of running, shadowboxing and bodyweight exercises. I got straight back into training as soon as I got back in late July (quite literally — I arrived just as afternoon training was starting, threw down my bag and got straight in for sparring) with the aim of getting myself fight-ready as soon as possible. Opportunities came up and two or three fights were set up, but always fell through or got cancelled. Even this one was postponed for one week only to then be put back by a further week before it finally happened. Thankfully, it materialized in the end.
This was a fight day like any other. I slept in until 10 o’clock, ate breakfast, got my hair braided with Katy and pottered around until it was time to leave. We usually have a van that we use to get to and from fights, but it was recently involved in an accident (everyone was fine, but the van is finished) so for this fight, we hitched a ride in a pick-up truck driven by one of Kru Singh’s friends, Tahanake, who was also fighting on that night with us. We were told to be ready to leave by 4pm, but as usual, ended up waiting for around an hour after that before we actually got on the road. While we were waiting, we took some photos, since we had all the girls from training together. We also took a couple with Master Toddy and Nong May, the super-cute 6-year old girl who trains with us (click to enlarge).
It took us around three hours to get to Hua Hin, a trip during which we stopped halfway to grab some food. I don’t usually eat a proper meal after breakfast on fight day, I never seem to want to and sometimes have to force myself to eat at all. Instead, I usually just pick at little things throughout the day. I wrote about this and why it happens in my last post, ‘Pre-Fight Anxiety: The Fight or Flight Response‘. By the time we stopped, it was around 7pm. The show was due to start at 9pm and I was the third fight, so I knew that I’d be fighting early on, but there was still time to eat, so I decided to have a small plate of fried pumpkin and egg with rice. I wasn’t sure how this would sit with me since I don’t usually eat a full plate of anything so close to a fight, and i felt slightly uncomfortable for the rest of the drive, but knew that I was better off eating something. You never know how long you’ll be waiting to fight over here, nothing is certain. Anyway, as soon as we arrived at almost exactly 9pm, I forgot all about it and focused on the task at hand.
Upon arrival, we were told that the first bout had been cancelled, which meant that I was bumped forward to the second fight. No surprise there. Last minute changes almost always happen and you can pretty much guarantee that whatever change it is, it won’t be the ideal one for you, so you have to just roll with it. The Hua Hin Grand Thai Boxing Stadium is situated in the middle of the Hua Hin night market and appears to function as a gym during the daytime. It’s very small and only had a handful of spectators, mostly foreigners. It seems that the stadium might have suffered a bit recently. They used to have regular promotions twice a week, but since the military coup, things seem to have slowed down and fight nights are sometimes only bi-weekly (which I think is why the fight was pushed back originally). As you walk in, there’s a weights area on the right, with various resistance machines before you reach the ring. The equipment is draped with little kids playing and fighters getting ready. One of them, I instantly identified as my opponent. I had never seen her before, but Katy and I were the only two female bouts that night, and the girl was definitely not big enough to fight Katy at 60kgs. As she was sitting, I found it hard to gauge her size properly. In fact, this is something I’m generally really bad at. I always look at people and think that they’re ‘about my size’, when in fact, they’re much bigger than me. This even happens in fighting and sparring, and it’s not until I see a photo or video that I realise how much smaller I am. I sometimes feel like a Jack Russell that takes on bigger dogs without realising how small it is in comparison. As it happened, the opposite was true in this case and this girl, Nong Kung, happened to be slightly shorter than me. She didn’t appear to have a trainer with her, only another girl who seemed to be there just for company. She let Nong Kung do her own thing, sitting and watching while she wrapped her own hands and got herself ready. I imagined that this meant either that she was very experienced or had travelled a long distance for the fight, away from her home. Perhaps it was both. Either way, it wasn’t important. You often see fighters just rock up and fight casually in this way at small stadiums like this one.
Left: A young fighter preparing for the first bout of the night Right: Nong Kung preparing in the weights area as the fights get started
As usual, there was minimal time to get prepped for the fight. The first fight and only one before mine finished early with an early KO, so I wrapped my hands, got changed and had a quick massage from Kru Singh in the space of no more than ten minutes. There was no time to shadow box, but this was something that I was used to. Before I knew it, I was in the ring, the ram muay was over and it was time to get started. I immediately noticed that Nong Kung was a southpaw, the first of such an opponent for me. Having never fought a lefty and done only minimal sparring with them, this threw me off a little. She had a strong, fast left kick and used it a lot, throwing mostly to my leg and head. I have developed this niggling habit of using my left leg to cross-block instead of lifting up my right, which is sometimes quicker but usually less effective. Still, I felt good after the first round and although she presented some new problems for me, I didn’t feel out of my depth. As the fight progressed, I tried to work her out. She was coming in quickly with kicks and then stepping out and I counted back as quickly as I could each time. The problem was, I was only counting back once. This is is a mistake that I often make in training, too. If I only count back once, the score is only ever going to be even at best, so as Master Toddy would say, it appears that I’m only ‘fighting to survive’, rather than fighting to win. One of the reasons why I kept doing this was because she was so good at kicking and moving that she was never there for the second set. Of course she wasn’t. Why would she stay there for me to hit her? I knew I had to back her up and close in on her in order to get an edge, so I cut off the ring at every opportunity to tried and trap her when she tried to move out. She retaliated by using a lot of front kicks to keep me out. There was very little clinching in this fight, but when we eventually did get into the clinch, I threw a right elbow to her eye. It wasn’t flush, but it landed. After that, I tried to get into the clinch with her more, but she new exactly what was going on and was very effective in keeping me out. To get past that, Kru Singh told me to go in with body punches and long knees. Towards the end of the fight, she played the teeping game. She was already tired and was up on points, so just kept throwing front kicks at me. At one point, she landed one directly to my bladder, right on the button. The thought of ‘am I going to piss myself?‘ was unimportant in comparison to ‘I need to finish this fight‘, but it definitely crossed my mind for a brief moment. She also caught my right elbow with another teep, which caught the ulnar nerve and made my entire right arm go numb for a brief moment. That was weird. Anyway, shortly after that, the bell rang and Nong Kung’s hand was raised. Surprisingly, she was also given the stadium belt, although I was unaware that we had even been fighting for it. Damn. Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu had a similar experience recently, fighting Cherry Sit. Yodtong for a belt in Pattaya without finding out until afterwards, when she watched it get strapped to her waist. I suppose it was a missed opportunity. Belts aren’t important to me and don’t factor into my goals of fighting. However, that’s not to say it wouldn’t have been nice to accidentally take one home! Still, there were other things that I got out of this fight.
It’s not that I performed terribly. There are things that I did well in this fight. However, I made some mistakes that I’ve been consistently making, one that also caused problems for me in my previous fight. I kept waiting for her and letting her strike first which allowed her to get comfortable. When I got there first, it always worked for me, I just did that so little in this fight. I also didn’t follow up nearly enough. I would land strikes effectively and then come out and restart. This way, she always had the advantage. The reason behind these problems was completely down to mental issues. Namely, a lack of confidence. I knew exactly what I needed to do, but that mental barrier was making me pause for too long and stopping me from doing it. This is something that I really, really need to get over. One way that I hope to do this is just to fight more regularly. The more often I get into the ring, the more comfortable I’ll be there. It’s only now that my fights have become less regular that this has become more of a problem for me, so I need to change that. I also need to have confidence in my own abilities as a fighter. If you don’t believe that you can win, then you won’t. You almost have to play mind tricks on yourself sometimes to convince yourself that you’re invincible. This psychological aspect of training and fighting is definitely something that I’m going to be working on more from now. I can’t keep making the same mistakes. The nice thing is, as long as I want to fix them, I will fix them. It’s just a matter of finding the right way how and implementing it over time.
Katy also fought on that night, winning by TKO in the fourth round against a Thai opponent called PetchChompoo Sit. Karuhat. Karuhat (Sor. Supawan), PetchChompoo’s trainer, is also a legendary fighter from the ‘golden era’ of Muay Thai, who held Lumpini Stadium titles at 112 and 122lbs. Katy was also awarded a stadium belt, which was really awesome. It is funny that the promoter didn’t feel that it was significant to tell us that before the fight, but nothing is surprising!
Left: Me, Katy and Sarah after Katy’s win Right: Karuhat. Sor Supawan, Kru Singh, some guy and me
The Long Ride Home
I looked over to see Nong Kung sitting across from me, icing her eye. I decided to take the opportunity to try and talk to her a little bit and take a couple of photos. She seemed very shy, looking away when talking instead of making eye contact and giving only short answers. She mentioned that she’d travelled from the Bang Chak area of Sukhumvit, which is very close to our gym, then asked how we’d got to Hua Hin. I pointed over at Kru Singh and said that we’d come by truck. I didn’t realise why she was asking until we left the stadium, when I went to hop into the back of the pick-up and found her and her friend already sitting inside. That was unexpected, but it made sense.
The idea of giving your opponent a ride home after the fight might seem awkward, but it wasn’t at all. If nothing else, we were all too tired for it to be so and tried to sleep for most of the way. Just as we got back to Bangkok, we asked Nong Kung what gym she trained at and she replied that she actually didn’t train in Bangkok, but in Sukhothai. I’m not sure if she was staying in Bangkok just for the fight. It was a little confusing, but she didn’t seem very forthcoming, so I left it instead of bombarding her with questions. We got home at around 2:30am, although I didn’t sleep until around 3:30. I always have trouble sleeping after a fight. Nevertheless, I was up at 7am the following morning and got straight back into training with some light sparring. I have lots to work on from here.
Left: With Nong Kung after the fight Right: In the pick-up on the way home
See below for the rest of the pictures from the night (click the enlarge):
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